Alaskan Natives Look to Arctic Council to Preserve Waters, Way of Life

Alaskan Natives Look to Arctic Council to Preserve Waters, Way of Life

Alaskan Natives Look to Arctic Council to Preserve Waters, Way of Life

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hands the gavel of the Arctic Council to Finland's foreign minister Timo Soini, marking the transfer of the chairmanship of the Arctic Council to Finland until 2019.

Russia is working to develop the Arctic as a region of peace and stability, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told the Arctic Council in Alaska, but expressed regret at the lack of security cooperation between member states over the last few years.

Mr Aleksi Harkonen, Finland's senior Arctic official, said that during negotiations the USA had demanded there be no mention of the Paris agreement in the Fairbanks Declaration, as the final statement of the Arctic Council meeting will be known.

Earlier in the week, a U.S. State Department official offered the same feel-good message.

These opposing approaches are bound to cause friction as the Council's members move Thursday to adopt a consensus on language for a joint statement, which has been the subject of diplomatic quarrels for weeks. Assemble the foreign ministers of Russian Federation, the United States and Canada, and those are just a few areas rife for fireworks.

At issue is the abrupt change in the USA position on the Paris Agreement since the November election.

"We as a government need to get very serious about this problem, it's real, it's documented, all the scientific projections, have the Arctic in a continuous state of accelerating decline", said Pomerance.

"In terms of being a reflection of a nation's priorities, it can only go so far since all eight have to agree to the same thing", said Nils Andreassen, executive director of the Anchorage-based Institute of the North, a non-partisan organization focused on Arctic resources. President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, has given mixed signals about remaining. His White House is now embroiled in debate over whether the United States should continue to participate in the Paris Agreement.

He is expected to decide whether Washington will leave the 2015 Paris Agreement, or stay in with reduced commitments, after a Group of Seven summit at the end of this month.

The five Nordic countries recently issued a statement strongly affirming the Paris accord and vowing to take the lead on climate and energy policies.

Tillerson spoke Thursday in Fairbanks, Alaska, at a meeting of the Arctic Council, made up of the eight Arctic nations and indigenous groups.

Two broad frameworks, Soini said, should be taken into account in all Arctic Council activities: Climate change, especially the Paris Climate Agreement, and sustainable development goals that the United Nations adopted two years ago.

After the rally, the protesters marched behind a sign reading, "Welcome to the frontline of climate change", to the building where the Arctic Council welcoming celebration was being held.

"The question of the USA view of the Paris agreement is still under consideration within the U.S. government", David Balton, the State Department official in charge of USA participation in the Arctic Council, told USA media this week.

The Arctic Council, formed in 1996 to co-ordinate global efforts for sustainable development in the Arctic territories, does not typically discuss military or security issues. They've probably done the most in the second and third areas. But U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says his country continues to review its own policies. "That's not changing. So if past is prologue, one might not expect so much change".

But in Fairbanks, the newly minted American envoy may come under more pressure from traditional allies like Canada and Finland than from Moscow, this time over climate change.

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